I’m not the only one bothered by Mudcat Saunders’ article about the Metropolitan Opera Wing of the Democratic Party; maha is too. That post is worth a read, but at the end of the post she makes a very good point about preserving culture (italics mine):
Mudcat has slandered opera fans by implying they are elitist snobs. The fiercest opera fans I have ever met have been regular working-class folks — construction workers, plumbers, clerks. I used to know a lady who worked the counter in a Paramus, New Jersey, department store and who saw every production at the Met. It was her religion. She had to get to the Met by bus because she was too poor to own a car.
But didja ever notice that many of the people who make a big bleeping deal about preserving “western culture” are often the same ones who want to eliminate government funding of fine arts? “Free markets” can’t sustain the fine arts; never could. The costs of producing world-class opera (or ballet, or even just plain old orchestras) exceed what the market could possibly bear through ticket sales. Even the Metropolitan Opera, which fills the house for every performance and mostly ain’t cheap (one nine-performance “season” ticket in a center “premium” seat is going for $3,240 next season) depends on donations and grants for half of its operating costs. All over America there are excellent orchestras, opera companies, etc. struggling along on a combination of ticket sales, private endowments, and government arts council grants, and still barely breaking even if they’re lucky.
Some people get all worked up about preserving “western culture” when they’re worried about undocumented and non-English-speaking foreigners of color sneaking into the country. But when it comes time to pay some taxes so that, somewhere, there’s a real live Verdi opera being performed, or the paintings of old masters are being protected from fading and rot, suddenly they’re a lot less concerned about “western culture.” They’ll pay for a fence, but not for “Falstaff.”
Long ago musicians, composers, painters, sculptures, etc. depended on the nobility for employment and sponsorship. Now that we’ve done away with monarchy, it ought to be up to We, the People, to chip in. So, yeah, almost 20 years ago some guy took a photograph of a statue of Jesus in a jar of urine, and his exhibitor gave him a little prize money paid in part by the National Endowment of the Arts (which I do not believe had anything to say about the awarding of the prize), and the Right still has the vapors about it. But without some tax support, a whole lot of illuminated Bibles and other traditional sacred art would be removed from public view and sold into private hands, and many’s the Christmastime production of Handel’s “Messiah” that would be canceled.
Maybe the opera is ‘snooty’, but aren’t the high point of civilization, not Paris Hilton, what we’re supposed to be fighting for?